Solid glutes make your waist seem smaller and your booty look amazing in anything form-fitting, says Melody Scharff, C.P.T. trainer at Fhitting Room in New York City. But beyond that, they improve speed, agility, and power, and help protect the back from injury. Not to mention, since lean muscle tissue requires more calories to maintain, a strong booty means a faster metabolism and more calories burned every single day.
The key to glorious glutes? Hit all of its major muscles—the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus—which work together to abduct, rotate and extend your hips, and generate power, says Dennys Lozada, C.S.C.S., fellow Fhitting Room coach. And while there are plenty of exercises that will leave your glutes sore, like walking lunges and step-ups, no single exercise optimally activates and builds all three of those glute muscles, he says. To fully activate every bit of your booty, you need a workout that involves a variety of exercises.
This four-move booty circuit hits your glutes from all directions so you can grow the perfect peach, says Scharff. Run through the circuit three to five times at least once a week, in addition to your usual strength-training routine, which should focus on big, heavy movements like squats and deadlifts, recommends Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault. The combination of these two types of training will help you pack on glute size and tone your entire lower body and core, he says.
Move #1: Banded Quadruped Hip Extension or Banded “Donkey Kicks”
Targets: gluteus maximus and quadriceps (primary) and hamstrings (secondary)
How to do the move:
- Begin on all fours with your hands and knees planted.
- Loop a resistance band around one foot and hold the handles beneath your hands.
- Tighten your core and contract your abs to stabilize your spine.
- Keeping a 90-degree angle at the knee and foot flexed, push the banded foot backward and up until the bottom of your foot is facing the ceiling and your hip, thigh, and knee are parallel to the floor. (Focus on contracting the glute and keeping the knee joint still as you push backwards.)
- Slowly lower back to the start position.
- Perform 15 reps with one leg before switching sides.
Why it works: This movement really isolates the glute muscles, which makes it effective for muscle activation, strength, and growth, says Scharff. Newbies can perform the move without a resistance band and add one once the reps feel easy. More experienced booty-builders can increase the thickness of the resistance band used for an additional challenge.
Move #2: Hip Thrusts
Targets: glutes and abdominals
How to do the move:
- Begin with a flat bench and a barbell handy. (Put a pad on the bar to make the move more comfortable.)
- Sit with your back (just below your shoulder blades) against the long side of the bench, with your feet planted directly under your knees, your neck neutral, and the padded barbell in your lap.
- Position the bar directly on your upper thighs, just below your crotch, and grip it with palms facing down.
- Drive through your feet to extend your hips vertically and push the bar up until your knees form 90-degree angles and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Focus on moving the weight with your glutes—not your lower back or hamstrings.
- Contract your glutes hard and push your hips as high as possible while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. Maintain tension in your glutes as you lower the weight.
- Repeat for 20 reps total.
Why it works: Hip thrusters support everything from glute size, strength, and appearance, to sprint speed, squat and deadlift performance, and general body power, explains Wickham. Start out with bodyweight hip thrusts, and from there add resistance by looping a resistance band just above your knees, or adding a barbell to the mix, he suggests.
Move #3: Bulgarian Split Squats
Targets: quads, glutes, and hamstrings
How to do the move:
- Find a box, bench, or piece of furniture that is 20 to 36 inches high and put it behind you.
- Stand with your feet hips-width apart and reach one foot back so the ball of your foot rests on the platform and your knee is bent.
- Bend your front knee and lower your hips toward the floor (like in a lunge) so that your rear knee moves down towards to the floor. Keep your torso as upright as possible as you lower down, and make sure your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes. (If it does, hop your front foot forward.)
- Pause when your front quad is parallel with the floor.
- Then, drive through your front heel to push back up to the starting position.
- Perform 10 reps on each side.
Why it works: Bulgarian split squats are a surefire way to fire up your glutes and increase lower-body strength, along with balance and stability, says Scharff. Perform this move with just your bodyweight at first, and hold dumbbells in your hands when you’re ready for an extra challenge.
Move #4: Jump Squat
Targets: glutes, hamstrings and quads (primary), and calves, core, and lower back (secondary)
How to do the move:
- Stand tall with your feet hips-width apart. Keep your weight in your heels and find a comfortable position for your hands, either clasped behind your head, on your hips, or dangling at your sides.
- To begin the movement, bend at the knees and lower your hips to squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pause in the squat position for two to five seconds.
- Then, without using your arms, explode through your legs to jump up as high as possible.
- Land softly by slightly pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
- Readjust your feet so they’re hips-width distance apart.
- Perform as many as you can before your form starts to break.
Why it works: A jump squat is a basic movement, but it’s essential for building glute, calf, quadricep, and hamstring strength, improving muscle stabilization, and developing the back squat movement, says Wickham. Not to mention, they’re a great cardiovascular burner, adds Scharff.
Related: 3 Ways To Improve Your Squat